Things are not going well for fourteen-year-old Doug Swieteck and his family in Gary D. Schmidt’s novel Okay for Now. Doug and his parents have to move to a rundown house in upstate Marysville, New York, where his father has found a new job. Doug’s older brother Chris is a budding juvenile delinquent under suspicion of committing several robberies in town, and Doug’s oldest brother Lucas is in Vietnam. On top of all of this, Doug has a very big obstacle to overcome when it comes to his school work.
On the brighter side, Doug is a gifted artist who receives lessons on drawing birds from John James Audubon’s Birds of America from a kindly librarian, and he quickly develops a crush on Lil Spicer, whose father owns the local deli and hires Doug to make Saturday deliveries. There is a lot going on in Okay for Now and Schmidt does a convincing job writing Doug’s narration of these events. Ultimately, too many events in the book come off as implausible. These include Lil being cast in a Broadway play even though she has no acting experience, and Doug’s dad doing something unimaginably cruel to him. Even worse, the implausibility often shifts between slapstick comedy and gritty realism. This could be a good book, but there is just too much crammed in.